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A lot goes into making opera.
Few people in town carry that knowledge as personally as Ian Campbell, the San Diego Opera’s general director. We once peeked inside his company’s process for the production of “Faust,” noting how many hundreds of people must come together to build sets, coordinate lights, rehearse music and, of course, sing.
This month we’ve been embedded inside a very different process to make opera. The San Diego Children’s Choir is unused to mounting giant productions, but in a few days, we’ll see the organization’s massive effort take the stage at Copley Symphony Hall. The choir of more than 250 kids is presenting Benjamin Britten’s “Noye’s Fludde,” the biblical story of Noah and his vision to build an ark to save himself and his family and dozens of species of animals from an impending flood. The piece involves a small orchestra, an onstage ark, a fabric ocean and animal costumes.
I asked Campbell to give us some tips on what to look for in the kids’ final rehearsals. His company has performed operas by Britten before, and he’s familiar with the piece. Here are Campbell’s two cents:
In “Noye’s Fludde,” Britten has composed a work which is perfect for young voices to perform alongside more experienced singers. Britten understood the voice and the need to articulate well, and the children are given many wonderful opportunities to make their mark.
The work is deliberately small-scale and intimate, in keeping with the voices used, and great creativity is needed by all participants. Obviously, musical accuracy and clear diction are essential, but the real challenge for young people is to “feel” they are the person singing, and not just deliver the words.
Becoming a character is difficult at any time, but young people sometimes become so intent on being where they are supposed to be on stage, and waiting for a fellow performer to do something, that they become rigid, and “tune out” until it is their time to be present again.
In the final rehearsals I’d be focused on making sure they “inhabited” the role rather than just performed it, and were the character at all times. This means that everyone has to trust the other to do what is needed at the right time, so team-building is essential.
There will be a couple of rehearsals this week with a few members of the choir and the adult singers, but the first time everyone gets together is Friday. Our embedded team will watch to see how the kids get past the choreography and lyrics they have to remember and begin to “inhabit” the role, as Campbell suggests.
What about you? What would you watch for in these last few days before they take the stage? Leave us your thoughts below.
Read our first installment of this month’s embedded here.
San Diego Children’s Choir presents “Noye’s Fludde” by Benjamin Britten at Copley Symphony Hall downtown on June 3 at 3 p.m. Ticket information here or 619.235.0804.